South Maui beachgoers would be able to park for longer periods of time at the end of South Kihei Road under a bill advanced Monday by a County Council committee.
In response to complaints from residents, the county in 2004 imposed restrictions along the stretch of South Kihei Road that dead ends into a parking lot for Keawakapu Beach. Street parking along the makai side of the road was limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but no signs have been posted to date.
Because the beach parking lot has only 15 stalls, parking overflows onto the street in unmarked stalls. Larger vehicles often jut onto the road, forcing pedestrians to walk on the street.
People walk next to diagonally parked cars on the Wailea end of South Kihei Road. Parking at nearby Keawakapu Beach has only 15 stalls, and parking often overflows onto the side of the road, forcing people to walk on the road. This photo, taken in December 2010, shows what happens with parking on a busy day at the beach.
Maui News file photo
"The idea is that everyone parks on (the) road to go to the beach," said Bud Pikrone, general manager for the Wailea Community Association, which patrols the area. "Larger pickups stick out, and people have to walk in the street. Even though it's not a thoroughfare, it's not a safe situation."
Council Member Don Couch, who holds the council's South Maui residency seat, proposed a bill to lift the parking restrictions. The council's Infrastructure Management Committee voted 5-2 Monday to pass the measure. It next heads before the full council later this month.
The county's Traffic Safety Council had advised against a previous county plan that would've created diagonal stalls along the road for beach parking.
In a letter to Couch, the council said it "anticipates unrestricted parking in the area would create safety issues for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle traffic, (and) as a result, the Traffic Safety Council members do not support the request to repeal the prohibition."
Couch said residents and beachgoers want the longer hours.
"This has been a push from, I would say, 90 percent of residents on that street - there aren't that many - plus talking to all the people who park there," Couch said. "To eliminate beach parking would be really not to the best interest of the people. It's a public street. Why are we keeping the hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.? I mean, it's a public street."
The gate for the beach parking lot closes at 8 p.m.
The law prohibiting overnight parking on public roadways would still apply.
David Goode, director of the county's Department of Public Works, said the previous plan to create diagonal stalls is moot, after having been stopped in court last year by nearby residents.
Goode said his department hasn't solidified new plans for improving parking conditions, but it is considering some graveling work and posting of signs.
"There seems to be a real need for parking in that area," Goode said.
He noted that the existing ordinance limiting street parking stemmed from complaints that subcontractors for a home under construction at the time were taking up all the street parking.
Council Member Riki Hokama expressed concern over the back-and-forth messages from residents. He voted against the bill.
"Every 10 years, it seems, we go through this same thing with this same area - ban parking; allow parking," Hokama said.
He added that he was annoyed that the existing restrictions aren't being enforced with any signage.
"It befuddles me that we can pass an ordinance that doesn't get squared away for 10 years," he said. "That really irks my butt."
Council Chairman Danny Mateo cited traffic safety issues in voting against the bill.
"I do have sympathy for the residents who live along this roadway, but I still am a bit troubled between the need for us to move forward, and the need for us to still address the Traffic Safety Council's concerns," Mateo said.
Couch responded that the safety issues would still be present until the Public Works Department finalizes a plan and starts work on improvements.
"Regardless whether it's 7 to 7 or we go back to the regular hours, until any kind of construction gets done there, which doesn't appear to be imminent, the issues that the Traffic Safety Council have are still going to be there," Couch said.
Additional parking stalls at one time would have been built by the Grand Wailea as part of the hotel's special management area conditions for its planned expansion.
The county required the hotel to provide for 75 new public parking stalls for beach access, and 21 of those were slated for the north side of Keawakapu Beach. Work on that plan was halted by a lawsuit in December 2010.
The $80,000 remaining for that project has been directed to the Department of Public Works to increase beach parking in the area.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.